Brief thoughts on the Finch Report
This blog post was written by James Lush, the Biochemical Society’s Policy Officer
We have released a statement on the Finch Report, the report of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings (known to all as the Finch Group). I am in no doubt that the scientific community and public want open access. But, working at a learned society, to me it has been interesting to see how the debate over the more technical details have played out over recent months, given that we:
a.) represent a significant community of scientists (we recently passed 6000 members)
b.) generate a significant amount of our revenue from publishing.
Economically, publishing is already important for our economy – as David Willetts said himself (admittedly when addressing the Publishers Association AGM) – and open access publishing could be too. The opportunities and potential of the wider ‘open science’ movement is huge, especially when other possibilities such as data mining are taken into account. But there are risks involved, and learned societies face a challenging transitional period. The whole research ecosystem will need to be on board, particularly funders.
The transition is already taking place and the open publishing world is developing quickly. In 2008, a survey showedthat the landscape was very unclear and that none of the member societies of the Biosciences Federation (a fore-runner of the Society of Biology) offered a fully open access journal. Now, Portland Press Ltd (our publishing subsidiary) alone publishes two: Bioscience Reports and ASN NEURO (on behalf of the American Society for Neurochemistry).
The shift to open access is, to my mind, undoubtedly a good thing, as long as it can be done sustainably and any charges do not exclude people from being published. That would be completely self-defeating, which is why we all need to work together for the benefit of researchers and the public.